SelectButton’s Early Access reviews provide valuable insight into a work in progress. The game will be reevaluated once officially released, as the review below is based on the Early Access build of the game at the time of the review’s published date.
Blazing Griffin has crafted a spiritual successor to The Ship: Remasted, which released only a couple years ago. That title itself was based on the 2006 title The Ship, where unsuspecting characters explore a luxury cruise ship set in the 1920s with the intention of murdering each other without being caught. Murderous Pursuits utilizes a similar premise, as the stealth-em-up title lets eight players hunt their quarry in various compartments aboard a Victorian-era ship traveling through time.
Murderous Pursuits is a grateful change of pace from the shooter-centric competitive online scene. Using The Ship has a base, Blazing Griffin has refined the experience, some of which work out well, and others that need improvement. Mr. X has once again brought together an unlikely group of guests, with the intention of bloodying the bowels of the ship. Instead of exploring an entire ship, you are limited to individual sections during a match (with only four areas currently available). The game priorities deception and stealth above all else. Players will need to blend in with other AI controlled characters to ensure they don’t arouse suspicion of other human players.
There are eight different characters to choose from, each with a set number of skins or color swaps that can be unlocked by playing with that specific character. Characters don’t have any stats or advantageous over other characters, so it doesn’t really matter which one you select. However, what is essential, is the choice of your two abilities from a pool of five available to all players (one which is limited to the deluxe edition of the game). While some are best served as defensive abilities, there are others that will support your goal of finding your target and eliminating them for the most amount of points/favor. Your starting weapon doesn’t provide much in terms of points per kill (or favor), so you’ll want to find a better, high scoring weapon. Each time you eliminate a target, the points attached to each weapon is randomly assigned. The weapons don’t provide any gameplay advantages, as they are all used in a similar one-hit kill fashion.
Your ability selection is highly dependent upon your play style. Counter sets your character in an auto-defense mode for a short period; useful when you identify any nearby hunters that make a beeline towards your position. Reveal serves as an area of effect ability to detect any nearby targets or hunters in a set range, making it the perfect talent when there is a cluster of characters. Those are two primary abilities I used in almost every match, but there are three additional ones I only used a couple of times. Disguise can camouflage you into any of the other players. It is a great defensive skill to use when turning a corner during a chase. Similarly, flash can be used to blind anyone nearby, letting you escape unseen. The final power, humiliate, only exists to boost your favor score, by triggering a dance upon the corpse of your target.
Favor serves as the game’s primary score and everything from the weapon you use to how exposed you are playing a pivotal role in how many points you earn. If you can stun another hunter, you can receive a favor bonus. You’ll also have to keep a watchful on the guard that patrols different sections of the maps. If he notices any transgressions, he will arrest you on sight, exposing you to the other hunters. At first, I didn’t realize the guard has a cooldown counter, so if someone is arrested, others can freely murder you or anyone else nearby until the counter resets. Pay close attention, as the guard has a habit of falling asleep, leaving the immediate area unprotected for quite some time.
Murderous Pursuits can be played online with other hunters or with AI controlled hunters (bots) if there aren’t enough actual players. I've had more success in the afternoon than in mornings when trying to matchmake. Thankfully the AI is quite enjoyable to play against, providing a decent challenge but does remove some aspects of the game. AI civilians populate the map, serving as a distraction, but they move in the same way as the hunter bots. Actual players on the other hand may not, but when playing against AI only, you don’t have that dynamic. The tracker on the top of the screen provides plenty of feedback on where you can search for your target, but be warned, more than one hunter may be looking for the same quarry, and you will also be hunted at the same time. Attack the wrong target, and you risk exposing yourself in front of other possible hunters.
Being exposed means other hunters can see an icon over your head if they are set to hunt you specifically. Moving about the map increases your expose, as does incorrectly attacking random characters. You’ll also lose favor if your exposure level is too high. There are set locations in the map for your to blend in with the environment, be it commenting on a hallway painting, eating/drinking at a table full of food and drink, or conversing with other nearby characters. There are plenty of other areas that all accomplish the same task, so make sure to move between them when possible.
As characters don’t feature any collision, making them freely able to walk and target through each other, this poses a slight issue in crowded situations. More than once, I knew exactly who my target was in a group of about six or seven different characters, but couldn't target the proper player. My targeting kept switching between two possibilities and in the end, I clicked when my target moved, and I became exposed for trying to murder the wrong person. Also, I have no desire to switch out my two selected skills (reveal and counter) as they are overly powerful and the most popular (with flash being the next popular choice). At least you will automatically shift position when entering the vignette sections to avoid overlap, most of the time.
Murderous Pursuits is an enjoyable multiplayer stealth title, if you look past the current lack of content included. It is a slower multiplayer title than most people will be used to and I found that thoroughly refreshing. There are only a handful of different maps, but honestly, there needs to be more variation as they all involve a larger centralized section with smaller rooms off to the side. Murderous Pursuits is best played with friends, as it added a sense of competition among friends over our Discord voice channel.Note: Murderous Pursuits (Early Access) was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.